As video games have become more accessible and are no longer played only by adolescent boys in their parents' basements, the phenomenon of video game addiction has become an increasingly relevant concern.
Video games now offer a level of realism nearly on par with television, along with hyper-realistic effects (think magic or superpowers) and a degree of interactivity TV could never hope to match.
The reasons people get addicted to video games are much the same as for any other kind of addiction. Video games offer an escape from worldly troubles, and they are designed to appeal to our senses, to provide a euphoric feast for our eyes and ears.
Research has shown that playing video games releases endorphins, resulting in a scientifically measurable high, not unlike that seen in drug addicts and gamblers.
Fortunately, this similarity to other addictions means that recovery from video game addiction can generally follow the templates laid out years before for drug and alcohol addiction. There is an additional component of video game addiction, however, that should be addressed if any recovery is too be attempted.
Because of the interactive and increasingly realistic nature of video games, and because the "drug" comes from a machine in a person's home, there is no social component to video game addiction as there may be for some drug addictions. Instead of a group of kids hanging around at night smoking marijuana, each child is in his own home (video game addicts are overwhelmingly, though not exclusively, male), connecting to the video game console or computer.
Certainly, there are social interactions built into most computer games these days, from war games that let players communicate voice orders to one another, to adventure games that let online players leave messages for others to find. But these are shadows of interaction, nothing like the face-to-face experience of conversing with, if nothing else, fellow addicts.
This lack of socialization poses a problem, then, when it comes time to treat the addiction. In most instances, the first thing to do is remove the offending influence from a person's life. An alcoholic pours out his bottles into the kitchen sink, and a gambler learns to avoid the casinos. But even aside from the sheer impossibility of avoiding all computers in today's world, to remove a video gamer's computer would leave him with no idea of how to function. The computer has been his only connection, however tenuous, to the outside world.
It is clear that part of the work of recovery from video game addiction must be supportive training on how to relearn basic social skills. Several experimental camps have been established to get a gamer out of his house and into the world, while simultaneously offering the training and emotional support needed to effectively replace the video game addiction with a positive and constructive activity.
It should be noted that this therapeutic component is the key to the process. Many parents might wish to send their child to a military-style boot camp to "sober up" but without the necessary interpersonal training, this could just drive a child deeper into himself.
Most psychiatric professionals will be able to get you in touch with a specialist in video game addiction, if you or someone you know has a problem. Good help is becoming more widely available and more socially accepted, and is a well-supported way to turn your addiction around.